Nizhny Ufaley

Nizhny Ufaley is a village 20 km away from Verkhny Ufaley. Folks from around have their dachas and country houses here. There is also a resort with access to a huge lake and a mighty forest.

When I was a little girl we used to come here in the summer. Our house had a large wild garden with strawberries, currant and raspberries growing in and of itself. When I was 5 I got baptised in a small church next to our house.

I will never forget this one afternoon. Me in my bedroom, standing almost in the doorway. Foxy-red paint on the floor and lace curtains on large windows that let bright light come into the room under a sharp angle. Huge black fly invariantly prancing around the room back and fourth, making a very loud noise with its wings, filling up the whole room with this sound… I will never forget this fly and an angle under which the floor was leaning. The house, stading on a gentle slope, was already very old back then, and the last few years we came back to it, the floors in the kitchen and the bedroom continued to lean down more and more.

Anyway, my childhood is gone now, but whenever I come to visit my grandma to Verkhny Ufaley, I go to Nizhny as well.

The village’s older houses continue to degrade and decompound; however, there are many new country houses having been built over the last few years. Right here is where the locals can buy the tastest bread ever (locally produced) and, surprisingly, the tastest dates and dairy; I’ve never tasted anything like it in my life. Oh, this happy ground… Goats and chicken, cows and sheep are walking around; all people are cheerful and know each other by name. Once they see one another on the street, they always care to say hello and engage into small talk for an hour or so.

The first look might be quite saddening. But all of that becomes irrelevant once you see the wonderful nature and smell the purest oxyden-filled air of this mother Russian village. And here are some pictures to illustrate it.

Verkhny Ufaley (Ural region, Russia)

This small town is where my lovely grandmother lives. She’s 88 years old. Her name is Flora.

This town is also where I’ve spent my childhood.

Every single square meter makes me nostalgic about the past. This children’s park with a broken swing, this candy shop, closed several years ago, this road where I used to play as a kid, with asphalt so old and shattered that it looks as if there’s no asphalt whatsoever.

And even though the city itself is in a detrimental state, I’m feeling good that I’m here right now.

Verkhny Ufaley, 180 km away from Ekaterinburg, one of Ural region’s largest cities, is a typical Russian “mono-town.” It has been founded not many decades ago to start some sort of manufacturing business or natural resources extraction. Luckily, Russian nature has given us a lot of resources to extract, so there are about 600 “mono-towns.”

Ufaley is known for metallurgy, extraction and processing of marble and semiprecious metals and stones, and some sort of manufacturing. There are 4 functioning factories on the territory of the town, so there’s work and money.

However, Russian small towns (and large towns) are corrupt. There is money in the budget for repairing roads, ennoblement of buildings, parks, construction of necessary structures, attracting culture. There’s no gym, no functioning swimming pool. There’s one museum, one culural center, one cafe with occasional violent episodes, one cinema that plays one movie at a time. Other than that, Verkhny Ufaley possesses shattered asphalt roads that have not been repaired since I was here for the last time 5 years ago; ramshackle buildings with flaky paint and plaster; ill-provided parks and childrens’ playgrounds, and overal  sense of sadness and hopelessness.

Does this sound like enough for a town with a population of 30 thousand people? I don’t think so. So, people are fleeing to Ekaterinburg, to Chelyabinsk (another large city in the South of Ural), to Novosibirsk (that’s a city in Western Siberia).

The mayor of the town is well-known for his bad management and corrupt nature, but no one does anything about the desperate state in which their town is. Perhaps, for me the change in the town’s appearance was so drastic because I don’t live here. People who do do not notice the slow dilapidation of their home town and therefore don’t see much necessity in changing something. Or, perhaps, they just feel hopeless, unable to change anything, or preoccupied with making their own ends meet.

There are no more weekly free concerts of classic music, performed in the spring and summer on the town’s main square. Moreover, the fountain from the main square has been taken somewhere. And none of the other fountains function. I used to refer to this town as the town of seven fountains…

I wonder what I’m going to see when I come back here next time…

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It has been a while

Ever since I left the states, my life has been incredibly busy.

I found a kickass job and hung out with my badass friends.

Haven’t really travelled much.

Went to Italy on winter break, but that’s the story for the next blog post. I would love to travel and write more, just don’t have that much time. Or money.

My hair color changed twice, I visited some of the greatest parties and concerts in my life, met some amazing people, and started working out again. I’ll leave the discussion about the recent political and societal events in Russia that really concern me for another time. I’ll just say that we are probably on a verge of something big and not good. However, I am very happy that I live in Moscow, surrounded by people I love and who love me. I have never felt myself at home and welcome in America. And I would never trade living in Russia near my family and friends for anything.

So for now, here are some pictures to summarize my Moscow life of the last 7 months.

 

The Big Apple

Tampa Bay could not be the last place I traveled to in America.

So I packed my little lady backpack and skeedadled to my favorite city for several days. And it was amazing. The weather was unfit for all-day-long walking (very sunny and too hot with almost no breeze), so I had to come inside air-conditioned coffee shops once in a while and get an iced drink. Seriously, the city in the summer is probably very exhausting to those who live and work there. Crowds on the subway, crowds in the streets. Until about 8 pm, it’s better not to show your face outside your air-conditioned office or home. But if you do have to, make sure you wear something that’ll efficiently absorb your sweat. And you’re going to sweat a lot, my friend.

Anyway, instead of writing up what I did over the last week (half a day in the Met, saw all corners of the city, discovered a lot of hidden gems), I’m going to ask questions.

- Why do all NYC ladies have perfect pedicure, regardless of their age and sense of style? Like, she could be 80 years old and/or wearing a plastic trashbag and still have salon quality toe nails.

- Why does someone always have to start a brawl on the subway whenever I’m on? Even the excruciating heat of the last week didn’t make people sleepy and lazy. NYC dwellers just want to start a scandal while in a confined space under ground together. I guess, rude people in New York get even ruder when exposed to uncomfortable summer heat. No one has actually ever said anything rude to me in New York. And even if they did, I wouldn’t engage in a brawl.

- Hoes does this pickup line sound, “Show me your hand, please. – (takes my hand) – Now, we’re on an adventure together” ? No, thank you, huge tattooed up guy.

- Why do a lot of NYC buildings have green tops? Don’t answer that. It’s oxidation of copper.

- Why does every corner of the city smell like piss, crap, garbage, or weed (sometimes all of those)? There are plenty huge cities in the world, but none of the ones I have been to smells as bad as NYC. I still love New York, no matter how smelly it is. Because the smell does not concern me that much. What does concern me though is how the city makes me feel when I’m in it. Free, comfortable, safe, inspired, and energized.

- Chinatown, why is it the least appreciated neighborhood in New York? Don’t answer that. It’s dirty, there’s uncontrollable chaotic crowds, and you can’t buy anything with a credit card. Also, I’ve been looking all over Chinatown for flip flops for about an hour and finally bought a pair for… $14! But I just really needed flip flops, my salon quality pedicure was really hurting my feet. I guess those salespeople just took advantage of a white traveling girl.

- How come Pacific Rim is the only great movie I’ve seen over the last 12 months? The last movie I saw that I really liked also had Idris Elba in it, and that was Prometheus about a year ago.

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San Francisco

This might seem silly, but I got acquainted with San Francisco through an old PC racing game, Midtown Madness 2. The game featured two cities, San Francisco and London. I was 13 years old and played all sorts of racing games… The Porsche part of Need for Speed (NFS 5) was always my favorite. And then came the Test Drive Unlimited, which blew my mind. And, of course, Grand Theft Auto III (although I did play the second GTA, but the third person shooter made the game iconic to me and so popular among many of my guy friends at school). I had an old computer that always froze when I tried to park my car at the safe haven garage, so I never managed to finish the game because I had to restart the computer and go back to the same mission over and over and couldn’t save my progress. I finished Vice city and San Andreas several times though…

But we’ve diverted from the topic…

I get incredibly nostalgic every time I think about San Francisco. Not only because it reminds me of the innocent times of my youth when all I did after school was play my favorite racing games. I visited the city once when I was 15 and then for the second time a couple of years ago. The first time, we spent something like 3 days in San Francisco. This time was enough for me to fall in love with this city. Ever since, I dreamt of coming back to SF.

So the very first spring break in America, I took a friend with me and flew to California.

This time, the city appeared much less fairy-tale-like to me. The Midtown Madness associations were still there. I remembered how I drove around in a Hummer at 150 mph, smashing into beautiful cathedrals and Victorian-style buildings and trying to get away from police cars chasing me. Speeding on the Golden Gate bridge. Drowning in the SF bay. The game used to be so detailed, and even the map of the city was so accurate that I really felt like I knew the city before I discovered it with my own eyes.

But SF beats any other city I’ve ever been to in quantity of bums on the street. Interestingly, bums in San Francisco are very intrusive. If you pretend to not hear them yelling at you and ordering you to give them your money, they’ll catch up with you and pat you on your shoulder to make sure you heard their demands. This was incredibly annoying to me. But since we lived downtown, we had to put up with the bums for 10 days.

SF became much more real to me when I visited for the second time. There’s a huge aesthetic difference between districts of SF. It’s a very segregated city. You will literally cross an intersection from an affluent neighborhood to a neighborhood downtown and see many more bums, gums and cigarette butts on the ground. Some neighborhoods are always crowded, loud, and dirty, and some look like an upscale all-white country side, very green, clean and quiet.

The guide book I read on the plane on the way to San Francisco contained a very detailed description of places where I shouldn’t go after around 9 p.m. Some of these dangerous places are downtown, in the very heart of the city, with bars, movie theaters, and concert halls. Interestingly, the book said something like “avoid western side of the 3d, eastern side of the 4th, and northern side of the 1st. When coming from the 5th to the 2d, turn right on the 4d and left on the 3d.” Anyways, one wrong turn, and you’re screwed.

I liked Castro a lot. This is the gay district in San Francisco. There’s a theory about gay people being this creative class in America. They come in and transform a neighborhood. They bring in business, money, beauty, and style. This is exactly what happened in Washington, DC’s Dupont Circle. No one wanted to live there because of crime, riots, and unemployment. Then the gays came in and made Dupont Circle the best neighborhood in DC. The best bars, restaurants, and small art galleries are there.

Finally, SF is full of great street art. Notably, graffiti. Oh yes, and wonderful small bookstores with very friendly and intelligent employees.

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